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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Introducing: Human Life International!

Father Thomas Euteneur, President of Human Life International expressed his opinions concerning gay marriage in a Life site commentary titled "Gay Marriage and the End of Christian Civilization." (August 13, 2010)

In expressing himself so eloquently, he made references to current events on the west coast of America. After 52% of the voting population of California in 2009 endorsed Proposition 8 that restricted marriage rights to the pairing of a man and a woman, a solitary Federal judge overturned the "will of the people." This "activist judge" took it upon himself to rule that even a majority of voters do not have the right to tell other citizens whom they may marry.

While every church may independently or collectively decide whose marriages they will honor inside their temples, it is not their place to impose that limited authority on the population at large. Marriage, although sanctified by a church authority, is primarily an economic status sanctioned by the State, which ever that state may be. It is the state's recognition of the union that must be documented and recorded in order to have the remainder of our economic and legal system likewise recognize it.

This union of two adults conveys certain rights and responsibilities that enhance economic wellbeing . The union conveys the right to inherit property. It conveys the right to Social Security and survivor benefits. It establishes who is a spouse with respect to spousal and family health insurance coverage issued by an employer. It conveys the right to make end-of-life decisions on behalf of another person who no long is capable of expressing those decisions. The union permits two people to file a joint IRS Form 1040.

There is no place for a church, creed, faith, scripture or theology in those economic aspects of human relationships. No where in attainment of those rights is there any mention of how one must have sex or with whom. Any church may regulate those aspects within their walls, and require the swearing of an oath that the members only engage in certain sexual activities with their registered opposite-sex partners in order to maintain membership in good standing.

Fr. Euteneuer asserts that God decreed that marriage was only between a man and a woman based on "Genesis 1 (the marriage of Adam and Eve) to Revelation 21 (the marriage of Christ the Lamb with His Bride the Church) God has had only one model of marriage, and it is not gay marriage." His Bride the Church? This church was not a woman. So the Lamb, Jesus, marries an Institution. Let us not even go there.

"A close second to this is that gay marriage distorts the very concept of parenting as well as marriage. Even if you overlook the fact that gay marriage is by definition sterile, every child of a gay marriage has to be adopted or artificially inseminated, and that in itself is a violation of the whole concept of family." There are thousands of reproductively sterile marriages between man and women. There are thousands of adopted children by married couples who both have children of their own and not. Sterility and other reproductive barriers has prompted the development of artificial insemination. None of these institutions of Man are inherently detrimental to any child. The operative factor is love and caring parents. Marriage provided two of them as opposed to one. Euteneuer continues with the assertion that "Kids model their lives, their concept of family, their morals and oftentimes their whole worldview on their parents' attitudes and values." There is no disputing that. Divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse likewise shape the minds of children and their attitudes and concepts of family. A read of the foster care statistics and the statistics on child and spousal abuse will open the eyes of any hardcore Christian who believes that Christian civilization might be doomed by allowing two men or two women, who love each other, to be united in economic unity. The incidence of dysfunctional family life far exceeds the numbers of couples who are homosexual and want to marry.

First, two homosexual people must want to become united in the eyes of the law. Second, the two people must be willing to "come out" exposing themselves to a bigoted world where Christian and Muslim, Hindu and Jewish fundamentalists are called upon to "fight against it with our very lives." Third, this couple must want to raise children. All of these factors significantly reduce the numbers of family units where "These kids get a totally distorted view of all these basics." The basics cited here must be the bigoted view of people who seek to limits the rights of others.

While the realities of American and religious society makes marriage and/or civil unions difficult or impossible, restricting such recognition doesn't alter the number of homosexual people by even one person. Loving couples have survived decades without the state recognizing their couple-status. The lack of the ability to marry has not changed the sexual orientation of anyone.

Taking a stand against gay marriage might just be a last stand against the assault on Christianity by the rest of the world. For certain Christians have been persecuted for 2,010 years since the religion first embraced the birth of Christ. But so have they been the persecutors. They have been particularly brutal against factions within their own ranks. Heresy has not been the wholesale denial of Christ as Savior, but rather a disagreement over the relationship amongst the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. More Christian lives have been taken be Christians over such disagreements than by any other religion. Whole congregations have been executed because they refused to renounce THEIR priest's teaching of the dogma and embrace the official one.

Today, Christian homosexuals are being persecuted by other Christians for their belief that they are Christians and homosexual too. One thousand years ago, Rome would have sent the Christian Knights to enforce the edicts of the Pope that they renounce, repent and atone for their sins or die burning on a stake or being otherwise brutally tortured and killed in order to make sure that God didn't punish all of Christendom for the sins of the few.

Fr. Euteneuer wraps up his comments with proof that he is still worried that God is still the wrathful vengeful Jehovah of the Old Testament. "We are called to be faithful and obedient to the Plan of God for our world, and within that, God will bring forth the victory. There is no doubt that, if it is not already there, gay marriage will be coming to your state soon. If we don't fight it, our souls, our families and basically, our very civilization, will find themselves at "the end" of the line in very short order.

The ancient superstition that the righteous and the sinner will perish together when God's might wrath sweeps a tsunami, or an earthquake or flood across the land is alive and well in the minds of the scared. A plague of locusts or just HIV will take the guilty and the innocent alike. When the end does come in the Apocalyptic conflagration surely it will be because of a few gay couples being allowed to have the same civil rights as heterosexual couples.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Mercy of the Universe

I was listening to a monologue on the Radio one Saturday at noon. The storyteller related the events of his life that followed him through his adult years. On one fateful day while he was driving along a street a girl about his own age swerved her bicycle into the path of his car. He swerved to avoid hitting her but not enough to miss her. She was killed.

Through out his life from that teenage year until he was twice that old he was haunted by her ghost. Not that a ghost was metaphysically present but the memory of her and the life she might have led had he swerved enough and missed her. Maybe he would have been killed instead like so many drivers who undertake to miss hitting some one or something else.

Upwards of 40,000 people are killed in automobile accidents each year and many of the dead were killed by someone who did nothing wrong. They were merely the instrument of the death caused by another. The author asserted that many people who are involved in fatal car crashes suffer post traumatic stress as the result. The ones who were at fault or at least partially responsible, he said, had an easier time coping. His statement was that they knew why it happened and could take measures to never have it happen again. The person without fault has to deal with the random nature of the Universe. One cannot escape that mindless clockwork cause and effect nor ever understand its capriciousness. That person was at the mercy of the Universe. Actually we all are every day, but we are quite adept at forgetting that.

I had just returned from the Grocery store and was preparing to put away the thing that needed to be kept cold. I had my hands full with bottles and packages. I was thinking that I would not be so distressed by a random event disrupting my life because I was in this world to experience random events. Without the opportunity to have unexpected outcomes life would become tedious and boring like watching the same film every day knowing that the same people get sick and the same people die in the same way every time. No matter how good the acting, no matter how great was the script, or beautiful the cinematography, it would get boring and the desire to watch it again would disappear.

Just as I was thinking about not being traumatized by a random event, I bumped the plastic tray in the refrigerator door causing it to dislodge and fall on the tray below. The bottles and jars all plummeted to the floor and into the lower tray. Several items bounced and rolled away across the floor. Only one bottle broke.

That bottle contained the only item in the door trays that I cared about. It was a nearly full bottle of pure maple syrup. The shattered pieces of glass were mainly grouped together in the sticky mass of liquid that slowly spread out from the impact point. A few pieces of glass including the neck and cap slid the furthest away. It was a random event indeed. It was not one comparable to the magnitude of killing a bicyclist, but every day I open the refrigerator door and close it without dropping a single item. When I drive to the train station to go to work and then ride the subway to the office, random movements of people and objects set up millions of opportunities for the Universe to be heartless and cause me injury or death. But it doesn’t. It could and I realize that one day it might. Meanwhile, life is interesting.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

John Stossel, Poor Baby

John Stossel, poor baby, must have had to wait to sit down in a public restroom. His ambivalence about restroom design demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about what the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is all about. He should spend one day tagging along with a person who uses a wheelchair in any city of the United States. Better yet he should borrow a wheelchair and try to follow that person through that one day. My invitation is always open. His blog post, Disabilities Act Feeds a Suing Public demonstrates his lack of understanding.

The architecture of this country started out completely inaccessible to anyone who could not navigate stairs, simple street corned curbs, revolving door and heavy ones. Twenty year on from the passage of the ADA we are only scratching the tip of the problem of barriers that are intentionally built that prevent person with mobility limitations to participate in this society. I will bet that Mr. Stossel never waited in the Mens restroom for the one end stall to be vacated by the guy with a suitcase while the use of the other nine stalls turned over several times. I will also bet that he never flew from New York to LA on a jet that did not have a restroom that he could use if he wanted to.

Even when there are restrooms that have been remodeled, the dimensions are many time not to code. If the sink is too low, it is too low. This is a matter for the ADA. If the wiring is deficient and ground fault outlets are not installed where they are required, this is an electrical code violation. Both code violations are the result of professionals not doing their jobs correctly, poor workmanship, faulty inspections. While the business owner is ultimately liable for the deficiencies and their corrections, he does have recourse, unless he did the work himself.

Mr. Stossel also doesn’t have a clue when he talks about service animals and snakes in particular. “Millions” of small businesses will never have a customer with a large service snake that will disrupt the operations. Many businesses that did have a customer with a service snake never even knew it. We are not talking about Anacondas and Pythons here. If other customers were riled up by inflammatory language like in Stossel’s September 1, 2010 blog rant they would realize that there is nothing to worry about. I challenge Stossel to cite one single documented incident where a large service snake accosted a nearby restaurant patron anywhere in the US.

While there are people who specialize in discrimination lawsuits, some based on the ADA, there are hundreds of thousands of slip-and-fall suits, soft tissue automobile collision claims, Workers Compensation frauds, dog bite claims, racial, gender and age discrimination suits. None of these are disability related. Some are valid and some are merely the result of aggressive ambivalence chasing. Attorneys have to make a living too. They can allege a case on the flimsiest of facts, just like John Stossel.

Just “Because the law turns ‘protected’ people into potential lawsuits.” And “Most ADA litigation occurs when an employee is fired, so the safest way to avoid those costs is not to hire the disabled in the first place.” is not a reason to not have the protections. Employment of persons with disabilities might very well have gone down AND partly because of the Federal regulations that prospective employers seek to avoid. The low employment rates for person with disabilities have a lot to do with the lack of suitable transportation to get to the job and home.

The ADA employment regulations created two classes of job duty: Essential duties and non-essential duties. The essential ones can be required of an employee, even one with a disability. The non-essential ones can be reassigned. While there are requirements that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” for an employee with a disability, those regulations do not extend to expenses so large that another employee would need to be discharged to pay for them.

Stossel says, “Under the ADA, Olson notes, fairness does not mean treating disabled people the same as non-disabled people. Rather it means accommodating them. In other words, the law requires that people be treated unequally.” This argument is the same as the old fear that equal rights for women would require that both sexes use the same restroom. Being treated fairly does not mean being treated exactly the same. Just look at the queues at the restrooms at any large public venue. It is painfully clear to all women that the venue having exactly the same number of stations in the Mens room as for the Womens is not equitable. Most US facilities are in this manner deficient. What is the loss of one stall to make one larger when the overall number is 50% too low.

ADA accessibility standards benefit everyone. The Washington DC Metro Rail system has typically one elevator to enter every station and one that gets a person to the track level. It took a lawsuit back in the 1970s when the system was being built to make that so. Yes it added construction costs. Yes it adds maintenance and repair costs. But back then nobody ever considered the number of women pushing baby carriages through the system. They never considered that any man would be pushing that baby carriage! Today, every day, every station – baby carriages on the elevators. All boarding is done at train car floor level – no steps into or out of the cars. Wide fare gates accommodate more baby carriages, suitcases, wide people, parents holding the hands of children than people using wheelchairs! WMATA doesn’t have restrooms for the public in any station, not because of the ADA or accessibility laws, but because they did not want the expense of cleaning and repairing ANY restrooms.

There are no ADA POLICE. That leaves it up to individuals and their lawyers to take on the resistant business owners. The American legal system is notoriously fickle when it comes to making consistent decisions. When a business comes before the bench on an alleged violation of the ADA, it is usually not the first complaint that was registered.

“Finally, the ADA has led to some truly bizarre results.” Yes alcoholic employees are classified as persons with disabilities if they identify themselves and seek treatment. They do not need to be employed in safety sensitive positions such as piloting an oil tanker. To be fair to Captain Hazelwood, he was in his cabin sleeping when his second in command ran the Exxon Valdez aground.

Federal regulations will usually reduce short term profits for businesses that need regulations. I hope John Stossel never sustains an ugly scar on his face because then he might not be allowed on the television any more. And that won’t be a protected disability.